Yes, You Can Change Your Career During Your Divorce – Forbes
Divorce can have a powerful impact on your life and emotional well-being. Affecting finances, living arrangements, schedules and, if you are a parent, your children, divorce can be an overwhelming experience that sucks up a lot of oxygen. It stands to reason that this might be the worst time imaginable to begin a new career.
But is it really?
It depends on the circumstances. While making two major life changes simultaneously is indeed a bold undertaking, the transition of divorce often triggers people to self-reflect: What makes me happy? What do I want my new reality to look like? While my life is in transition, why not go all the way?
There are also circumstances in which a divorcing spouse may feel that they need to change careers or start a new one. Perhaps as a single parent, you’re seeking more flexibility to spend time with your children or maybe you need to make more money now that you and your spouse will be setting up separate households.
If changing your career is something you are considering as your divorce proceeds, here are some pros and cons to consider.
- A different career—one with less travel or overtime, for example, and a family-friendly culture that enables you to attend more school functions, medical appointments and the like—might be highly beneficial to your children as it helps you do a better job co-parenting.
- If you have been a stay-at-home parent and are now choosing to establish yourself in a career to achieve independence and take on more financial responsibility for your family, the court is likely to look positively on this. More importantly, this life decision may bolster your sense of purpose and confidence as you move forward.
- With divorce proceedings and negotiations under way, you may not have the high level of focus and energy you need to be successful in a new position. It can be difficult to make a good impression, land the job and then hit the ground running when your attention is so divided.
- If your new position comes with a smaller salary than you are earning now, the court may interpret the move as an attempt to reduce your financial responsibility in terms of child or spousal support. (They’re not likely to be swayed: If you announce that, after 20 years as a highly paid investment banker, you are suddenly switching careers to become a more modestly compensated police officer, you will likely still be held to that higher threshold of contribution.)
- A career change has the potential to lengthen the divorce process as it will require more due diligence on the part of both parties’ lawyers in reviewing financials related to spousal and child support. A new position might throw new considerations into the division of assets as well. For example, if you receive a signing bonus while you’re still married, your spouse could argue that that is a marital asset subject to division. Litigating matters such as this can be time-consuming.
As you weigh the pros and cons, remember that a decision to change jobs at this particular juncture will be scrutinized by the court, especially if you have children. They will want to see that you are striving to create a more positive situation for your children both financially and in terms of your capacity to serve as an involved parent. Their examination of issues related to custody may become more complex as there will be no history of earnings or work hours. The more forthcoming and transparent you are about these details, the easier it will be for the court to move forward with decisions.
Should you change careers during your divorce? That decision is yours. Just remember to consider this: If changing careers puts you in a better position financially or as a parent, and you feel emotionally strong enough to take on a brand-new challenge, it may be worth pursuing. On the other hand, if you’re considering taking a position that pays less, that will limit your ability to parent effectively or that will put undue pressure on your mental health, maybe pass on the opportunity, at least for now. You want to come out of your divorce with strength, confidence and stability to begin this new chapter of life.